St. Louis police officer pleads guilty of planting evidence, other charges
February 13, 2009
By Robert Patrick

A man admitted Friday in federal court that when he was a city police officer he helped plant evidence, stole cash and filed false criminal charges.

Vincent T. Carr, 46, pleaded guilty to five felony charges: obstruction of justice and two counts each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and making false statements.

Carr and his former partner, Bobby Lee Garrett, 48, were arrested by the FBI in December after being named in a 10-count indictment that included those allegations and additional claims that the men stole drug money and supplied drugs to a government informer.

Carr's sentencing is set for April 30. He could get up to 20 years in prison, but under federal guidelines would likely serve much less.

Garrett has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial Feb. 25.

Court documents show that prosecutors have secretly made audio and video recordings, including conversations in which an informer pretending to be a drug-money courier arranges for Carr and Garrett to stop him, seize the cash and split the proceeds later.

Friday's hearing did not reveal whether Carr agreed to testify against others. His plea agreement was sealed. Carr, his lawyer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith spent almost two minutes in a private side conversation with U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber. Such discussions sometimes signal arrangements for cooperation.

Garrett's lawyer, Chet Pleban, who sat in the front row Friday, said later, "People plead guilty for lots of reasons. Perhaps because they're guilty or perhaps because they get sweetheart deals with the government. People only go to trial for one reason: because they're innocent."

Pleban has filed motions challenging the charges and evidence, and trying to get Garrett's trial delayed.

The officers worked in plainclothes as part of a special anticrime detail.

The charges against Carr centered on the search of a two-family home in the 1400 block of Arlington Avenue on June 6, 2008, and an alleged coverup as the FBI investigated.

In court, Carr admitted that a summary read by Goldsmith was accurate. It lays out the case this way:

- Carr obtained a search warrant for the first-floor apartment, saying he had information that drugs were sold and stored there.

- Carr and Garrett stopped the building owner, who told them that any drugs belonged to the residents, not him.

- The officers questioned a second-flood resident, who admitted he had crack, a gun and $32,000 cash in his apartment.

- The officers found drugs and a gun in the first-floor apartment, but Garrett also planted the crack, a 9mm handgun and $3,710 cash taken from the second floor. He kept the rest of the cash, later giving $3,300 to Carr.

- Carr and Garrett let the second-floor resident go so he would not report the theft of his money, then arrested the building owner who did not live there and sought charges against him.

- Garrett lied on court documents and lab submission forms, claiming all the contraband and cash belonged to the owner, not the residents. Carr later asked prosecutors to drop the case, saying the owner was the "wrong guy."

Both officers lied to FBI agents about their actions that day and destroyed their notes, Goldsmith said.

Carr and Garrett were suspended without pay after their arrest, officials said, and Carr retired Jan. 23.

Prosecutors are now reviewing past and current criminal cases that may depend upon their testimony.